Evanescent Thoughts

Evanescent Thoughts

Linux and Tom Sawyer

with 8 comments

There’s one big factor in why Linux isn’t popular on the desktop. Linux is free. I know this sounds like complete dog’s bollocks, but hear me out before judging my sanity.

We can all remember the story of Tom Sawyer. At one point, Tom had to whitewash a fence. When one of his friends happened along, Tom tried to persuade and bribe the friend to help him. Needless to say, it didn’t work.

A few moments later, as Tom was unhappily whitewashing the fence, another friend stumbled along to jeer at Tom’s misfortune. This time Tom decided on a cunning plan. He ignored the friend, and seemed very absorbed in the whitewashing. Soon the friend became intrigued, because what could be more interesting than talking to a friend? Shortly thereafter, he started begging Tom to let him whitewash a bit of the fence. Tom wouldn’t give in.

The friend offered Tom some of his most valuable possessions if Tom would just let him whitewash a little bit. Tom reluctantly agreed, secretly jumping with joy on the inside. More friends happened along, coming to laugh at Tom for having to whitewash a fence. Tom simply did his act, and they all stayed to help whitewash, and paid for the privilege!

The above story illustrates a basic human nature. We don’t value things we can get easily. Yet we’d climb mountains, cross rivers and travel across deserts just to reach something we can’t easily get our hands on.

The computer world

The same thing applies in the world of computers. Humans are naturally suspicious of that which comes too easily. Imagine you were promoting an expensive brand of champagne. If you were running around forcing free samples into people’s hands, they would be very wary. But if you set up a stand where you would offer small samples for 1000bucks  each (“Special promotional price! Normally costs three times as much!”), people would see your champagne as posh and valuable.

It’s still the same champagne. Yet your presentation radically changes people’s perception of it.

Which brings me to Linux. There’s one problem with Linux getting to new users. It’s free.

That’s right. Linux being free is a problem in reaching new customers.


Written by Sathya Narayanan

March 15, 2008 at 11:06 pm

Posted in computers, general, Linux

8 Responses

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  1. Guess that is for users who take meaning of free as the free in Buy 1 get 1 FREE..


    March 15, 2008 at 11:17 pm

  2. its the universal concept dude…ppl dont realise the value of somthing which they get for no price 🙂

    Sathya Narayanan

    March 15, 2008 at 11:25 pm

  3. Nice try!!


    March 15, 2008 at 11:31 pm

  4. Good post 🙂 I agree, apart from your use of the expression ‘dog’s *******’ – in slang it means the greatest thing around, not a load of bull 🙂


    March 16, 2008 at 12:51 am

  5. spot on… people get tired of hearing me praise the joy of free linux and just don’t bother trying it out (despite numerous ms troubles).
    Perhaps i should sell my cdr’s for 250$ each :p


    March 16, 2008 at 3:37 am

  6. lol but we cant sell linux too right 🙂


    March 16, 2008 at 9:31 am

  7. It would be interesting to see how linux would fare with other OSes if it came with a price. ofcourse with all the open source perks..


    March 21, 2008 at 11:19 pm

  8. bt at times i still think there is a lot more for linux to improve if it needs to reach common users who want everything configured on a button click .. bt tht is way boring tooo 🙂

    Sathya Narayanan

    March 22, 2008 at 12:05 am

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